The Power of Teshuvah – Day 3
Only Teshuvah Can Do It
To create a publicity “buzz,” a local radio station runs a contest that gives the winner 10 minutes’ access to a bank vault, where he is allowed to carry off all the cash he can grab. When the time comes to collect his prize, the winner moves with unprecedented precision, speed, and nonstop energy, his hands flying like perfectly calibrated machines.
We each get our “10 minutes” in the form of the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, and the prize is far more valuable than money. We have the opportunity to grab health, spiritual strength, happiness, and all the things that bring fulfillment in life. There is one specific key provided to unlock the vault, and that is teshuvah.
The Talmud states that most of us are designated by the name beinonim — our mitzvos and sins balance. Therefore, our fates are not finalized until Yom Kippur as Hashem grants us these ten days to ensure our place in the Book of Life through the means of teshuvah.
So then we must wonder: Why is teshuvah alone designated as the mitzvah that ensures a judgment for life? Why wouldn’t any mitzvah tip the scale in our favor? The reason is because of teshuvah’s unique essence.
A king seeks to give his subjects access to him, and personally visits their homes. At one home, the occupant goes about his routine, mowing his lawn and repairing his door hinge while the king stands by. The subject’s disregard of the king is in itself an affront worthy of punishment.
Hashem “draws” close to the heart of every Jew during these ten golden days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur. He offers us the chance to come close to Him with teshuvah, and we must respond. To ignore Hashem and make no attempt to be receptive to His offer of closeness is in itself a sin that cannot outweigh other mitzvos done to gain merit.
A band of robbers who were imprisoned dig a tunnel and all but one escape. The next morning the guard finds him in the prison with the tunnel open before him. He hits the robber and says, “You fool, the tunnel is open before you and you didn’t run away!” So too, Hashem tells the sinner, “The tunnel [of repentance] is open and you did not repent!”
Through teshuvah, Hashem gives us the power to reach all the way to His Throne of Glory. Even if one has sinned many times, he can hold onto the belief that Hashem still forgives him, that his teshuvah is effective. Then there is nothing to impede it from reaching the Heavenly Throne and being accepted by our ever-loving God, Who wants to forgive us. That is why the prophet urges us, “Return, O Israel, unto Hashem your God …”
Hashem is like a caring parent who never entirely forsakes his child. He will not allow our souls to perish within us, as we say at the end of “Magen Avraham,” the first blessing of Shemoneh Esrei, Hashem watches over the spark of “Avraham Avinu” in each of us. Each Jew is a beloved child of God, and no matter where he finds himself and how many years or generations have elapsed, he will feel the inexorable pull toward his roots. Even if barely audible, his soul will call to him to initiate the teshuvah process.
Points to Ponder:
- Every mitzvah or sin has the potential to tip the scale of judgment. However, sincere teshuvah ensures inscription in the Book of Life.
- Teshuvah is Hashem’s offer to us to come close to Him.
- Ignoring His offer of closeness is in itself an affront to Hashem.